What? Isn’t the financially ailing Times selling part of itself off to a shady Mexican billionaire? Isn’t the Globe, owned by the Times Co., losing a reported $1 million a week and eliminating 50 editorial positions?
Yes and yes. This week, though, the Nieman Journalism Lab pulled together a year’s worth of Web site figures — compiled by Nielsen and reported monthly by Editor & Publisher — and found that the Times’ and the Globe’s Web sites are far and away the most successful in their respective weight classes.
Among national papers, the Times has built such a huge lead over its rivals that there’s really no comparison. Look at the chart. With nearly 19.5 million unique visitors every month, the Times’ online readership is nearly double that of its closest competitor, USA Today.
The Globe’s Web site, Boston.com, ranked number six in the country, with 5.2 million unique visitors a month. If you consider the Los Angeles Times to be a national paper, then the Globe is by far the largest regional online newspaper.
One other thing. In December, visitors to the New York Times Web site spent an average of 33 minutes poking around. At the Globe, it was nearly 17 minutes. In other words, a substantial number of people are actually reading the paper on line, not just dipping in quickly from a search engine.
To be sure, there are some extenuating circumstances. According to the Nieman analysis, the Times’ average monthly uniques were driven up by the resignation of Eliot Spitzer as New York’s governor last March. The Globe benefited from Red Sox coverage during their September playoff drive. In fact, the Globe benefits from the Red Sox year-round, as Sox fans from around the country check in on a daily basis.
Still, this is further proof that what ails the newspaper business right now isn’t a lack of readers — it’s the collapse of the old business model, compounded by recession and debt.
If there’s any good news here, it’s that there are enough people who want what newspapers are giving them that there may be some way of figuring out the revenue dilemma.